Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Listen! Wonderful Sounds of Nature Should Up Your Curiosity

Do you pay attention to the sounds and sights around you? For those of us who live in rural environments, it's generally the birds, wind in the trees, and insects.

But there are also special times when I can sit on our porch and also hear roosters crowing, bleating goats, clucking chickens, mooing cows and more. You're probably wondering if I'm going to get into my own version of "Old McDonald" but you're wrong.

During the rut season, we love to hear the wild calls of the bull elk during the evening. There is also the bark, whine, and yelp of the coyotes on the nearby prairie, especially at night.

Last year was the first time I took particular notice of the tricolor bumble bee. I was getting ready to drop some green compost into our container and saw this bee on orange peels.

This year many of our plants were soon to bloom but we had a killing frost and most of what normally blooms didn't burst into wonderful color this summer. The purple Penstemon is one of the hearty plants that grow in our yard. Not all of the flowers survived the frost but I was elated to see the bees were attracted to the few that did.

I heard the buzzing of flies and bees one day while out filling bird baths so I took a close look at the flowers that were blooming. I saw several tricolor bees that I remembered seeing in our compost container last year.

I then did some research and found several articles about this tricolor bumble bee (Bombus ternarius) which is also known as "orange belted" in some searches.


I took numerous videos of the tricolor bumble bee on the purple Penstemon. We also had black moths that are active during daylight out around the flowers along with the bees. 


In the photograph above, you can see the orange strips mixed in with the yellow and black bumble bee colors as it goes about gathering pollen on the Penstemon.

Are there any particular sounds of nature that you focus in on where you live? I'd love to read your comments.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

What I Love about the Dictionary of the Digital Age

dictionary, grammar, writing, blogging, spelling, education, learning, digital age,
My Well Worn Dictionary
I have to think we all must laugh when hearing similar comments like "I had to walk 5 miles uphill, in the snow to school" from older people about the differences of then and now. Well, I have a new one. I had to lug around a dictionary like the one in the photograph above to look up the meaning of words. So this post is to share my thoughts on the digital age of learning new words.

Long gone are the days when it was a bit of a task to look up words I didn't know or understand. Stopping to look up words is one of many reasons I am a SLOW reader. I have to look up words and even ponder the meaning before I can move on with my reading. You must see how that can get quite tedious and slow down one's reading progress. But I like it that way because I've learned something by looking up a new word. I always wish that it's one I would consider adding to my vocabulary and writing.

Grabbing a word definition isn't so tedious these days which makes it all the more tempting to look up the meaning. I guess that's one reason I like the digital age. Yes, you read that correctly, I'm from the older generation but I do like the advantages of the digital age. You can look up anything. But as they say, "back in the day" I had no other option but to pull out a dictionary to find the meanings. Sometimes that could get distracting because I might also pull out the Thesaurus to search other options if it was for writing an article. Yes, I'm sure you're thinking she's odd but I wouldn't argue.

Currently, there's no excuse for not looking up words since it's so easy to do. We have e-readers that allow one to highlight the word and "boop" there pops up the definition. That done, you are right back to the reading.

When you're online a right click for "Look Up" (I'm sure there are similar options) and there's the definition. Just like this one below. I was reading about food. That's always a good subject to draw me in. I saw the word "umami".  It was new to me so I decided to hit the "Look Up" option which you see below. So easy!

Good thing I looked it up otherwise I would have been thinking along the wrong lines as to the meaning. I figured the word had something to do with eating (duh) but I recalled the sea urchin "uni" which I'd seen on several cooking shows. Did it have something to do with that? No, it wasn't related to uni but looking it up taught me something new that day.

So we mature citizens (we need a wise guy emoji) should be happy with the ever improving and ever-changing technology of today. It not only educates me but it helps keep me sharp trying to stay on top of how to work my Mac, iPhone, iPad, and even hubby's Microsoft and Android products.

I smirk when the editing software shows me all my grammatical errors. At my age, I should know better than to make so many mistakes. Ha!

I realize that not everything in this digital age is for the better. Using technology wisely but putting it away to get back to nature is also good. I would think that the ease to learn a few new words might make more folks check the meaning when unsure.

I might be an oddity as one of the older generation but I would love to be around even 50 years from now to see how technology has changed lives for the better.

What is your take on technology? Let me know in a comment.
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Approaching This Wolf With No Fear

When first moving to northern Arizona, we were discovering a lot of plant life that we hadn't noticed in other areas where we had worked and lived.

We kept seeing various colors of a material on rocks. Initially, I thought it was moss in various life stages. However, just by looking at it, this material didn't have the same consistency as moss.

I did some research to find out that what we were looking at was lichen. It is an interesting organism quite different than moss. Moss is a flowerless plant that is often mistaken for lichen. Simply put, lichen is algae that live among fungi in what the scientific world calls a symbiotic relationship.

At some point, I came across a patch of interesting, branched looking green material growing on downed wood, our old cut firewood and on living tree limbs. I wouldn't have thought that it was lichen since it looked nothing like most of the other lichen we saw.

I thought this fuzzy greenery was a specific kind of mistletoe that I'd heard about in Arizona. We have Dwarf Mistletoe which is a parasite that stunts growth or kills off coniferous trees. Our area is majority Ponderosa pines so the mistletoe affects the environment.

I did more research, to find out that what I was seeing wasn't mistletoe at all but is wolf lichen. I have come across wolf lichen, on a lot of our hikes through the woods and prairies. This form of lichen grows like multi-branched tufts or a leafless mini-shrub. According to information about Lichen on Wikipedia, this lichen form is a coral-like shrubby growth form.


The wolf lichen above was found on old cut, seasoning piece of Juniper firewood.
We walk through the woods often so I look at tree branches for things that I might find interesting. Once I learned that wolf lichen grew on live trees, I started searching for it on low hanging Ponderosa pine branches. During one camping trip in the DeMotte meadow outside the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we saw live tree limbs covered with the wolf lichen.


Wolf lichen above is thriving on the live limb of an old growth Ponderosa pine tree. These trees are prevalent in northern Arizona.

When winter arrives Mother Nature can add an interesting twist to this fuzzy looking wolf lichen growing on the living pines in the forest. A light snow highlighted a patch of wolf lichen on the limb of a Ponderosa pine tree in northern Arizona.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Is A Piece of Work Art Before It's Photography?

Is my photography art?

I write about this topic since some time back, I read a blog post titled “Is a photographer an artist?"

We do use two separate terms photography and art. If you look at definitions you'll see photography is most definitely included in a list of "visual arts'.

I realized a long time ago that the term "art" it quite subjective. I know that there are things I've seen that I wouldn't call art while others praise that same work. This discussion resurfaced with my husband and me after watching a story about a Chinese dissident and his form of art. One of his pieces of work consisted of rows of shoes on the floor and clothing strung up on some type of line in a room. It reminded me a visit to a Berlin museum with a coworker where we saw a similar display of newspaper pages strung over lines of string. We had a discussion on that as art for quite some time.

Taking a creative license with how one chooses to shoot a particular subject, in my opinion, is part of being artistic even if the final photograph is considered art. Some photography subjects may portray more artistic elements than others from my point of view.

I have noticed that flower photographs will get many comments when posted on social media or in articles. Flowers are such a photographed subject that when I see them in non-typical lighting, unusual angles and settings, I take notice. That's the artistic angle I enjoying seeing.


Artwork ©Patricia AZ Phillips

Digitally Editing Photographs Into Artwork

And then there is our ability and decision to alter a photograph as I did here. These beautiful Lilies were photographed with my iPhone. I was walking along the sidewalk at the wrought iron fence at Jackson Square, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana. This cluster caught my attention because you can see how the forward most lily is sticking through the black wrought iron fence rails.
As I was editing the original photograph, I noticed that the left wrought iron bar was in good condition and solid black. I decided to take a bit more of an artistic licensing and add a small amount of glare and rust on it as seen on the right bar.

Equipment or Photographer? 

Some people think that if they don't have an expensive, fancy camera they can't take "good photographs".  I think knowing about lighting, angles, getting a focused subject and some other photography basics can help anyone with a phone camera take awe-inspiring photographs too.

Just looking at the artwork on this page, would you have been able to tell that this was a digitally altered photograph or photograph of a painted lily?

Leave a comment. I'd love to read your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why Do We Like to Mess With Photographs?

Because we can!

Have you ever had the urge to just play around with some of your photographs? Maybe you considered combining two or more of your photographs? We can do it for fun or for a special effect.

I've seen some incredible pieces of editing that I know must have taken a lot of time. Generally, mine are just simple edits that I had fun creating. I didn't want to take the fun out of it by making it more work than fun. I've given up on some edits because of how tedious it was getting and knowing I probably wouldn't have a place to share it.

I got started doing some creative editing when I used to shoot for several stock photography sites. I learned quite a bit about digital photography when I initially tried to get started into that stock photography community. As I was learning and submitting photographs for acceptance to the sites, I was also doing a lot of experimenting with photographs. That experimenting got me started on editing more photographs. I began to love playing around with combining original photos to make something quite different from the originals. Most of the edits I never shared but that time of experimentation helped me learn how to edit better.

I have since closed all (but one that I'm awaiting payout) of my stock photography accounts but still find time to have fun with some of the old photographs I find in those photo folders.

This photograph was an edit of a clear shot glass with a fresh mint sprig forward of a white background. The tree frog photograph was taken when the neighbor kids found it and allowed me to photograph the critter in a white light box. I cut (edited) the tiny frog from the white background and added it to the glass. I also had to manipulate the legs a bit to make it look more like it was climbing.

I hadn't shared my edits because they were just for fun. However, some time back I posted this compilation of the two photographs on a now defunct social site and got quite a few comments. I still giggle remembering one gentleman commenting that he would never ask for a glass of water at my house.

I hope you found this post and photo compilation fun. If you are interested in seeing this as a print, jigsaw puzzle, or greeting card cover let me know. I'm happy to work with you.
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Transforming Photographs into Digital Artwork

What you see is the artsy result of one of my orchid photographs and a mix of photo editing details.


I've taken thousands of flower photographs with my DSLR camera and my iPhone. One of the plants I've totally enjoyed photographing are blooming orchids.

I've had several Phalaenopsis orchids growing in our home so I captured them with a DSLR.  Having plants in the house, offer the opportunity to make a variety of adjustments in lighting, composition, and setting. I've also stopped to take some photos of orchids with my iPhone while I was out and about in public places. In those cases, it's tough to filter our distracting objects in the background so a bit of editing helps clean that up.
Since I have so many flower photographs, I enjoying toying around in editing apps and computer software to get more artist results. Among the many floral photographs, I picked to alter was this Phalaenopsis photo.

If you think photo editing means buying an expensive software program you might want to check out cell phone apps. I have made simple and complex edits to some photographs like this one above with phone photography apps. I have also partially edited some in a phone app and later did more work with them on my computer editing software. Sometimes I just like to play around with edits and I've been pleasantly surprised by the results.

This orchid happened to jump out at me as I was looking through one of my many flower photography folders. One of the obvious edits is an added texture. I also did some lighting and editing of the colors in this photograph so I don't believe an actual orchid comes in these colors. But you never know.

Since I took an artistic license to make some dramatic changes in color, lighting, and texture I'm calling this art.

Are you an orchid fan? How long has /have your house orchid/orchids lasted?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Making Our Own Yard Decorations

There was a time when I wanted to do something different for yard decorations. I love having flowers but was looking for something different.

A visit to a local petroglyph archeological site gave me an idea. I was fascinated by the figures carved into the rock, the pictographs, and symbols used by Native Americans.

As explained on Wikipedia "Petroglyphs are images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images. Petroglyphs are found worldwide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples."

I did some reading and searches online after that site visit to find the meanings of some of the symbols and designs I'd seen on artwork, on jewelry and pottery.


First I had to find rocks that would show off the etching when carved into. Then I had to find a Dremel tool that would cut well into the stone so the etching was visible.

When I found a good rock, one of the first designs I tried was my version of the sun as shown in the image below. In this etching, I included the spiral which I later learned was the symbol for migration. It is a metaphor for life's journey. I had no idea at the time about the spiral meaning but now that I know, it's quite karmic that I chose that.

We have lived (temporary and long term) in quite a number of locations as Army veterans. We have settled here in northern Arizona after several temporary residences after retiring from the Army.  We plan to remain here so that symbol and the sun seem most appropriate for our current life migration. Sadly the sun etched design was run over by our tractor during a snowstorm clean up so it's in two pieces.

After finding a very large flat rock that had a smooth surface, I used an old etching that I had made for the coverings of pottery lighting. The image above shows that design of the hunter ready to launch a spear at a bison on a hilltop.

Have you been inspired by something like this? I would love to hear your story. Leave a comment.


All Photography ©Patricia AZ Phillips